Yard's closure end of an era for piper and his dog

Andy McColm is taking his dog Dougal and his bagpipes when he closes Shaws Yard at the end of the...
Andy McColm is taking his dog Dougal and his bagpipes when he closes Shaws Yard at the end of the month. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Thousands of Dunedin homes will have "a bit of Shaws Yard" in them, owner Andy McColm reckons.

The building material recycling firm has been an institution in South Dunedin for 40 years, originally established by Dunedin identity Keith Shaw.

"There wouldn't be many original houses in Dunedin that haven't got a piece of Shaws Yard in them," Mr McColm said this week.

But that tradition is set to end when Mr McColm (62) closes the yard permanently on March 31, taking his bagpipes and West Highland terrier Dougal with him.

No longer will the skirl of the pipes ring out from the Waverley St yard on a Friday afternoon, as the Scotsman tutors some young bagpipe enthusiasts.

A few years back, Mr McColm and three fellow Scotsmen - along with a young Japanese woman - would cram into his office for a weekly bagpipe practice.

Not that Dougal minded - the little dog was deaf. He was a permanent and popular fixture at the yard.

"I tell you what, people come to pat the dog and see the dog. They don't come to see me," Mr McColm rued.

From the bagpipes to the terrier, it was "nothing but the real McCoy" for the Scottish-born Mr McColm, who has been living in the Edinburgh of the South since the mid-1990s.

He first arrived in Dunedin in 1981, having married a New Zealand girl, and the city was where her parents lived.

The couple shifted to Cromwell, where he worked on the Clyde Dam, before the family returned to Scotland.

Living on the Isle of Iona, a small island on the western coast of Scotland, they discovered it was too difficult to purchase property.

So they returned to New Zealand and lived in Bannockburn before moving back to Dunedin, where Mr McColm went out on his own account as a builder.

His last contract was building a kitchen joinery shop for Gary Shaw, Keith Shaw's son who had taken over Shaws Yard.

He asked Gary if he would be interested in selling the yard and he agreed, and Mr McColm officially took over on April 1, 2004.

While acknowledging that it was "pretty sad" to close the yard, Mr McColm said he wanted to "pursue other things in life".

He was a member of the City of Dunedin Pipe Band but had been focused lately on clearing the yard out.

There were some tramps that he was keen to do and a lot of New Zealand that he had not yet seen.

He has a whitebait stand on the Clutha River, wanted to play more golf and he had some building projects he was keen to pursue. He was also looking forward to keeping his grandchildren entertained.

"I just want to go and do other things in life. I've still got a bucket list," he said.

But he would "absolutely" miss the yard and the people that he dealt with, saying "every walk of life" came through the yard - from businessmen to politicians. "You just never knew who was going to turn up."

Describing the business as an "eco-friendly, clean-green carbon munching machines", Mr McColm said Keith Shaw was "way ahead of his time" in terms of recycling.

"It's all about saving all this stuff going to the tip every year," he said.

In the earlier years, there was a big emphasis on "doing up" houses; but these days, people were "too busy" and tended to buy things off the internet. "This stuff isn't as popular as it used to be," he said.

But there was still a market for what the yard provided and there was potential if anyone was keen to start up a similar venture, he said.

Fashions came and went - rimu used to be the "in thing" but that had gone out of fashion and was yet to come back, he said.

Lead-light doors and windows were very sought after, while cast iron fret work and claw foot baths had also been popular.

Stock from the yard had gone "all over the place" - from Auckland to Stewart Island, and even to Muttonbird Island where it was flown by helicopter.

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